May 03, 2022

Namal, Nimal Tweet on Aspen Medical case (Video) Featured

Australian media has revealed Canberra-based Aspen Medical has been embroiled in a top-level money laundering investigation after its involvement in a multi-million-dollar hospital project in Hambantota, on Sri Lanka's southern coast.  

The report was broadcast on Australia's ABC TV's investigative journalism program - Four Corners, which was done in collaboration with Colombo's Sunday Times.

It notes that Aspen Medical's first transaction in Sri Lanka — the payment of 1.4 million euros ($2.1 million) was to a mysterious British-Virgin Islands-domiciled company called Sabre Vision Holdings, owned by leading Sri Lankan businessman - Nimal Perera.

Tweeting, Nimal Perera had stated :
NimaloTweet1

Former minister Namal Rajapaksa had also tweeted to say he has no connection to the matter.
NamalTweet1

The Four Corners video and excerpts of the article published on abc.net.au are as follows :

 

It was a 2012 project for which the company had obtained formal Australian government support through an $18.8 million insurance guarantee from the then-Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC — now Export Finance Australia).

In a report to parliament, EFIC said it made the commitment on the basis that the company had been hired to "supply equipment and associated medical design and infrastructure for the hospital".

Aspen declined to answer questions from Four Corners as to whether it ever did supply any equipment or medical design.

The company's statement said its subcontract with EN-Projects, a Dutch company running the project, "covered the provision of a range of hospital engineering services" and that it had "engaged over 20 suppliers".

However, Aspen Medical's first transaction in Sri Lanka — the payment of 1.4 million euros ($2.1 million) to a mysterious British-Virgin Islands-domiciled company called Sabre Vision Holdings — is what caught the attention of Colombo police.

It was part of 4.3 million euros and $US537,000 ($759,000) remitted, in total, to the offshore company by Aspen Medical, EN-Projects and German company Juga Bau GmbH, which police "suspected … is a derivative or a result of an illegal activity".

The company was secretly owned by a middleman, Nimal Perera, notorious for his links to the Rajapaksa family which has dominated Sri Lankan politics for decades.

In 2016, he confessed to collecting money for the prime minister's son, Namal Rajapaksa, which led to Mr Rajapaksa's arrest.

When police investigating the hospital deal first questioned Mr Perera about the source of unexplained funds that had arrived in his personal bank accounts, he told them it was an Italian businessman whose identity he could not substantiate with an address or a phone number.  

Asked further about Sabre Vision Holdings, he told the police he did not "know anything about" the company, and added that he believed "the company could be related to his Italian friend". 

It was only when police received corporate documents from the British Virgin Islands that they learned the company was not owned by an anonymous Italian businessman, but by Mr Perera himself.

Pressed by Four Corners about why he had lied to the police, Mr Perera said: "No, I don't want to answer, sorry." 

Mr Perera confirmed he had never worked in the health sector and said that he had nothing to do with Aspen Medical. He had worked as an agent for EN-Projects, he said. 

In 2013, Sabre Vision Holdings received hundreds of thousands of US dollars that had been paid out in a global bribery scheme orchestrated by EADS, the parent company of aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Airbus's campaign of kickbacks in Sri Lanka, and around the world, became the subject of a deferred prosecution agreement between Airbus and Britain's Serious Fraud Office and, in January 2020, Airbus paid $US4 billion to settle the corruption investigation with French, British and US authorities.

Aspen Medical said it had not received "any requests from any government agency or court of law anywhere in the world" regarding the hospital project but would support any such inquiries.

It added that the Airbus scandal only became public in 2019, years after its payments to Sabre Vision Holdings.

Aspen Medical said: "We have a strong set of values that would preclude us working with organisations involved in corrupt practices." 

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